Businesses Applaud EPA’s Decision to Pursue Economically Beneficial Science-based Protections for Bristol Bay, Alaska

Media Release

Washington, D.C.— The American Sustainable Business Council and its collaboration partner Businesses for Conservation & Climate Action commend the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its announcement on September 9th that it will resume work to establish protections for the Bristol Bay watershed from large-scale mining, including the proposed Pebble Mine which has threatened Bristol Bay’s salmon, commercial fishery, and Tribes for nearly two decades. The EPA’s announcement signals its intentions to reverse the Trump Administration’s 2019 withdrawal of proposed protections for Bristol Bay and reinstate the proposed Clean Water Act protections that the EPA released in 2014. If finalized, the EPA’s proposed protections would block harmful mining activity and establish lasting protections for Bristol Bay’s world-class fishery and all that it sustains.

In the EPA’s press release, EPA Administrator Michael Regan, said: “The Bristol Bay Watershed is an Alaskan treasure that underscores the critical value of clean water in America. Today’s announcement reinforces once again EPA’s commitment to making science-based decisions to protect our natural environment. What’s at stake is preventing pollution that would disproportionately impact Alaska Natives, and protecting a sustainable future for the most productive salmon fishery in North America.”

“This is an exciting step towards not only protecting a renewable and thriving industry that supports thousands of American jobs, but is also a sign that this Administration is committed to following the science and defending a healthy environment that supports our nation’s economy,” said David Levine, Co-Founder and President of the American Sustainable Business Council.

“America is at its most beautiful when Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and businesses unite to protect what they know is right and just,” said Noah Oppenheim, national policy coordinator for Businesses for Conservation and Climate Action. “Defeating a zombie project like Pebble was a multi-decade, multi-generational fight, and it shows just how much work it will take to excise destructive greed from American natural resource policy. This EPA action is a clear signal that uplifting sustainable, non-destructive use of our lands and waters must become the central pillar of conservation and climate action for US policymakers.”

“We thank the Biden Administration for moving to restore the public’s trust in the EPA and putting the EPA’s Proposed Determination back on track. We encourage the Biden Administration to finish the job and finalize Clean Water Act Section 404© protections for Bristol Bay, ensuring that the world’s largest wild salmon fishery and its 15,000 jobs and traditional salmon-based ways of life are no longer threatened by the proposed Pebble Mine,” said Tim Bristol, SalmonState Executive Director.

“All fishing communities are celebrating with Bristol Bay today. We applaud the coalition of Tribes, fishermen, businesses, and individuals who worked relentlessly to secure this essential step towards permanent protection of Bristol Bay from this horrible unnecessary mining project,” said Linda Behnken, commercial fisherman and Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “This locally-led effort to protect Bristol Bay’s fish and fishery is an important model for conservation and climate action that will help meet the Biden Administration’s national goal to conserve 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030.

“Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery plays a unique role among U.S. fisheries and its value extends far beyond Alaska,” said Sarah Schumann, a commercial fisherman who spent 12 years working and fishing in the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, and now fishes fulltime out of Point Judith, Rhode Island. “Commercial fishing communities around the country applaud our colleagues in Bristol Bay for the decades-long fight they have waged to defend this vital salmon habitat. Like them, we are grateful to the EPA for adhering to science and taking bold steps to protect Bristol Bay’s irreplaceable world-class fishery. This is truly a victory for anyone who depends on wild ecosystems for their livelihood.”

“Especially given the mounting pressures on the planet, this is absolutely the right decision – and the EPA should be applauded for making it,” said Rebecca Rubin, President and CEO at Preserving Nature.

“The Environmental Protection Agency is truly honoring its mission by protecting the vitality and beauty of Bristol Bay - the irreplaceable home of wild sockeye salmon,” said Rosanna Marie Neil, Policy Counsel at the North American Marine Alliance. “We are in deep gratitude to the Alaskan tribes, environmental activists, and fishing community leaders who worked tirelessly over the past two decades for these protections.”

“This action has been a result of the many, many Alaskans and non-Alaskans who understand the incredible ecological, social, and economic value of an intact ecosystem in Bristol Bay. With the myriad pressures already gravely impacting the region, EPA has ensured that salmon, a foundational resource for our people, are protected from the proposed mining project that would result in utter destruction of the whole ecosystem,” said Amos Philemonoff, President of the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island Tribal Government.

“Our planet’s remaining wild salmon fisheries like Bristol Bay deserve to be left intact and wild for the Indigenous people and commercial fishermen who depend on this wild salmon way of life and for all the people who enjoy eating Alaska’s wild seafoods,” said Dune Lankard, Eyak Athabaskan Native, commercial fisherman, restorative kelp farmer and Founder and President of the Native Conservancy in Cordova, Alaska. “This is a huge net positive decision by the Biden Administration, where everyone and everything wins, including the tribes, fishermen, conservationists, endangered habitat, and our wild salmon. Working with these dedicated frontline stakeholders the Administration has a real chance of preserving and restoring our last thriving watersheds on Mother Earth.”

Businesses for Conservation & Climate Action (BCCA) is a group of Indigenous and community-based, resource-dependent small-scale business leaders from across the country. BCCA is formed around the collective vision that solutions between humans and nature are rooted in rediscovering our place within the global ecosystem. Its mission is to establish national policies that recognize sustainable small businesses as compatible with healthy lands and oceans, and to enhance rather than exclude these sustainable businesses from conversations about resource access at every step of the decision-making process. Our work is guided by a firm commitment to social equity, local and traditional wisdom, and triple bottom line solutions that restore social, ecological and economic health.